Mental Health, Resources

Mental Health and Social Media

When people ask me if I have social media, I often provide my handles with a caveat.

I don’t post often.

It’s an understatement, really because I hardly post at all. Why? Well, like the video states, I was using it as an escape and it often took all my time and I’d feel terrible after. Instagram in particular has me feeling anxious and nervous so I limit my time on it.

One thing that has always caught my interest is society’s reliance on social media. How often do people wake up and scroll through their Twitter or Facebook feeds? Or during a spare minute, you’re casually on Instagram seeing what your friends are up to. It may seem simple and benign, almost, but we are all taking in this information and processing it whether we are aware or not.

People see other people’s ‘happiness’ and wonder why they do not feel like that. Or why they do not have the same success. On the flip side, people share every significant moment online because our achievements are now a form of social currency. It is not enough to do something, it has to be shared so we can receive validation in form of likes and comments.

In some ways, it can be a positive thing. There is nothing quite like posting something online and getting a good response. Your brain gets a hit of dopamine and you feel good about yourself. And then suddenly that response is not enough. Perhaps you notice people are getting bigger responses and more attention. You begin to wonder why? What makes you so different? That is the negative aspect of validation creeping in slowly and pushing its way to the forefront.

According to Dr Michael Hurd¹:

If you lack or need validation for yourself, then you will likely depend more on social media for that validation than you otherwise would. Social media does not cause your lack of self-validation; it can, however, serve as an excuse, delay or distraction — kind of like a drug — from the fact that you don’t validate yourself in the first place.

What is validation?²

Validation is the recognition and acceptance of another person’s thoughts, feelings, sensations, and behaviors as understandable. Self-validation is the recognition and acceptance of your own thoughts, feelings, sensations and behaviors as understandable.

To put it simply and give an example (that may or may not be true), validation is accepting your best friend’s choice in music even though they listen to Backstreet Boys songs at an alarming rate while you do not care for their music.

Self-validation is loving those songs regardless of what people think. It is accepting yourself for who you are without needing approval from anyone else.

Above all, a lot of the issues which arise from social media are not exclusive to it. Often, they’re amplified by social media. The tips shared in the video above are a good start in helping people ensure social media doesn’t negatively impact their mental health. In my experience, the best way to do that is to limit your time. There is no need to cut yourself off cold turkey, just a gradual pulling away until it is something you consciously choose to use and not something you feel you have to use.

[1] Facebook, Social Media and the Psychology of Validation

[2] Do You Crave Facebook Likes?

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